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The role of cortisol reactivity in children's and adults' memory of a prior stressful experience

By Jodi A. Quas, Ilona S. Yim, Robin S. Edelstein, Larry Cahill and Elizabeth B. Rush


The purpose of this study was to identify whether cortisol reactivity to a stressful laboratory event was related to children's memory of that event and to determine whether this relation was comparable to that observed in adults. Nine- to 12-year-olds and young adults completed an impromptu speech and math task during which repeated cortisol samples and self-reported stress ratings were collected. Two weeks later, participants' memory for the tasks was examined. Greater cortisol reactivity was associated with enhanced memory, most prominently in children. Self-reported stress was unrelated to memory. Findings reveal that an important mechanism underlying the association between emotion and memory in adults, namely activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, appears to operate similarly in late childhood. Findings also demonstrate that positive associations between cortisol reactivity and memory are evident when the event that actually elicited that reactivity serves as the to-be-remembered event. ?? 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 53:166???174, 2011

Publisher: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1002/dev.20505
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